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Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, & Me

Monica Corsaro

The Supreme Court hearings, the news reports about climate change, the latest Supreme Court decision denying rights of our own Indigenous peoples, Kanye West has a meeting in the Oval office, what?  Hearing that was not an abuse of power?  The Dow Jones plummeting.  And let us not even start with what is going on in the twitter-sphere.   These last long weeks we were inundated with words and stories about bad behavior, even painful behavior, everywhere we turn.  I find myself asking folks in our community, "How are you doing? Are you being gentle with yourself?  What are you doing to take care of you?"

The ancients, no matter what religion, have bequeathed to us the idea of Sabbath. This time is designated to be with family and friends, time to relax, to renew, to rejuvenate the body, soul and spirit.  It is a day to be set apart. 

But in this time of the 24/7 era life and demands, I like to remind people it is okay to take Sabbath time each day.  Maybe it is a twenty minute walk or listening to a funny podcast over lunch.  Maybe it is getting up from your desk at work, going to a table, and actually enjoying your lunch.  Whatever it is that gives you a little renewal in your day, take the time to do it. There is enough time to invest in you.  After all that will make you a better parent, activist, boss, artist and all around human.  

Do I take a Sabbath, you may ask, and the answer is yes!  And what do I love to do? I love to take myself and others to the movies and have a great conversation after.  The conversation I feel, is the most important part.

I love movies. No, no, no, I do not just love movies -- I love the act of going to the movies.   I even have a ritual, it goes something like this:  I go early enough to get my kids pack (a small popcorn, small drink, and fruit candy).  I find my seat, usually on the lower right side, settle in and wait for the previews -- yes I even love the previews, oh the excitement and anticipation of what yet is to come.   And so for just a small portion of time I am swept away into modern day storytelling.  I get to leave all the distractions and enter into another world and participate. 

The film that has recently swept me off my feet is A Star is Born, yes A Star is Born. And after doing some reading I can see I am not the only one who is captivated by this story. The film has been made four times -- first in 1937, then in 1954, again in 1976, and currently with its 2018 release.  It’s a simple story and one too many of us may know all too well.

The 2018 version goes something like this:  Two strangers meet. He is a talented but tormented by addiction rocker who reached his apex in his career years ago and now is just kind of sailing along.  She is an aspiring singer songwriter performer.  When they meet the connection is electric.  They fall madly in love, he introduces her to his world, and this gives her the opportunity to be on the rock stage herself.   This is what will be the beginning of a career that will surpass his own. 

Some of my feminist siblings do not like this story in any of its versions, they do not like the fact that the man cannot stand that his woman has become more successful than him, that his fragile ego cannot handle her success. 

I have not seen the ’37 or ‘54 versions and it has been decades since I have seen the ‘76 film so I cannot speak to those versions.  But what I saw in this version was not a man who could not handle her success. It was a man (brilliantly played by Bradley Cooper) who was held prisoner by his addiction. 

How many of us know someone battling addiction?  It is heart wrenching.  I used to work in a women’s homeless shelter and for many of the women the reason they were there was they had lost everything because they needed to chase their addiction.   Part of my sacred work there was to celebrate with them when they had made it an hour, a day, or even six months without a drink.   I always appreciated the vulnerability the women shared with me in their struggles and considered it an honor they did share with me.

Vulnerability that is what both Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga bring to their performances and it is what won me over about this film.  And believe it or not, it is this vulnerability that gave me some respite in our harsh world.   It seems all too rare that anyone is vulnerable with anyone anymore in an authentic way, doesn’t it?   In her first concert scene young Ally is scared and cannot believe she is about to sing in front of thousands of people. In fact, she does not want to sing in front of thousands of people but finally she wills up enough courage and does, and amazes the audience.   We all know the real Lady Gaga is NOT afraid of the stage, but in this film there was no Gaga, only Ally. 

So my feminist siblings, you do not have to agree with me, but what I saw in this epic Hollywood film (go just for the arena rock concerts ) were two people, two good people, who find each other, love each other with all they got, trying (even with all the commercial challenges) to do their art while trying to be their authentic selves.  Really that is all we can ask of anyone, be their authentic selves. And for those who are suffering from addiction, we all can be more compassionate.

Ally and Jackson are fictional but because of this film we real people are having important conversations with one another. We are talking about gender equality, complicated family relationships, the power of music, that art can teach us about life, and that good storytelling does exist. 

So take some Sabbath time, call up a friend, go the movies, and go out for the conversation after, give and take with each other, look up fun facts, ask questions of each other, engage with each other.  Let us for sake of our society learn once again to have conversations with one another, face-to-face, and be the better person because of it.   See you at the movies!

Reverend Dr. Monica Corsaro is a United Methodist clergy from Galesburg. 

The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Western Illinois University or Tri States Public Radio.  Diverse viewpoints are welcomed and encouraged.